The Muslim Literati

Musings of a Muslim Book Devourer

The Morning After — April 8, 2017

The Morning After

För Stockholms-barn behöfs ej måla
På Norr den mångbesökta punkt,
Där skenor ut som nerver stråla,
Och järnvägsvagnar dåna tungt.
– Carl Snoilsky, “På gammal tomt”*

I was in the lunchroom at work when I got the news. We were having afternoon fika, and one of my colleagues got a ping on her phone and said that a truck had driven into Åhléns City. At first I didn’t really understand, thought it wasn’t anything serious. Making the connection between this event and the events in Berlin, Nice, and London was slow. Because I never thought anything like this would ever happen in Sweden. I always thought that these attacks happened as a result of the country’s part in the wars in the Middle East. Sweden doesn’t take part in any wars. Sweden is insignificant. I took solace in that – I thought that’s what it takes to keep a country safe. I was wrong.

Everybody at work were looking down into their phones, making phone calls. My brother called me first. He works in a building not far from where it happened. Nobody could continue working, rather everybody was trying to find a way home.

I’m going to be honest. You know this from my previous posts. Whenever such attacks have occurred in nearby countries, I’ve always been afraid for my own safety. I’ve been scared on the subways and buses on my way to and home from work.

This time it was different. For the first time in life, there was a different fear, a different sadness, a different anger. At first I had to call and text around to people to make sure everybody I knew was safe. Secondly, I thought of the location. Åhléns City is a mall situated in the centermost part of the city. People pass that mall not only because they’re out shopping, but because just below that mall is the central tube station, the station where all the subway and train lines pass. I could have been there. Anybody I know could have been there.

I thought of the location. Stockholm. My home. Where I was born, where I’ve lived pretty much my entire life. Some of the streets of which I could move around blindfolded. This is my city.

And then came the questions: am I allowed to call it my city? Is it OK? Will anybody object? Will anybody tell me I don’t have a right to partake in the grief? I wished I could make myself small, invisible. 

It’s easy to lose focus of the victims when something far away from you happens. Not so easy when it happens in front of you, or somewhere close to you, somewhere real to you. People actually died, and got seriously hurt. Here. Right in the heart of my city.

*For children of Stockholm you don’t have to portray
The frequently visited spot at north
Where rails beam like nerves outward
And railway wagons thunder heavily
– Carl Snoilsky, “On Old Plot” (my translation)

Featured image from Google.

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My Time in Your Space — March 30, 2017

My Time in Your Space

I am flawed. Heavily so. Because I want what you have. Because my small human mind can’t even begin to comprehend the wisdom in why things turned out the way they did, and why this is, which I cannot identify as anything else than a stagnant state.

I dodge bullets – sometimes it feels like all I can do. The word “fair” tries to slink into my mind, and I swiftly push it away. Sometimes I punch it, and it makes a hole in the walls of my mind; it goes out, but other things sneak in.

I am flawed, because I buy into the narrative the smarter parts of my brain tells me is false; I actually have a hard time believing anything else than the fact that you must be living some sort of fairytale. And – in reality coincidentally because we’re barely even friends, but in my mind of course, by some illogical connection – I do not. Thus I feel sorry for myself. Then others do as well, in return making me believe my self-pity is fully justified.

The worst part isn’t the self-pity, but the disgust I feel towards myself when I realize that I’m smarter than these petty feelings and peasant-like reasonings. I feel guilty whenever I’m reminded of the fact that my faith tells me to think differently, that it encourages me to feel differently. This is what makes me so heavily flawed.

No… what makes me so heavily flawed, is the fact that I can’t seem to do the right thing. The right course of action is to up my dua game. But I can’t seem to. Whenever I raise my hands up, palms facing upwards, sincerity is flushed out. Some still underdeveloped part of my prefrontal cortex, perhaps, whispers that I don’t really deserve this… and sometimes worse, that there’s no point.

My current project is to truly try to understand husn adh-dhann billah. It’s not an easy thing to understand. To find complete comfort in tawhid. Are words enough in order to absorb the true understanding of this concept? Or do events need to occur? Do I need to do something? I don’t know yet.

Many things are connected, but not you and I, not like that anyway. Your fate is yours, my fate is mine. I cannot hold you accountable for my life not following the tracks of yours – it is not even supposed to.

Territory

Wandering Gaze — March 17, 2017

Wandering Gaze

I have gained peaceful places and quiet moments. Many of them. A lot of time and space for self-reflection. I am left alone now. Or maybe I have simply become such a small imprint on the world that it’s not relevant to remember me. It’s easy to become relevant again – all you have to do is shout a little bit. But what is the point? Of things that don’t last anyway? What are these fleeting moments of barely meaningful? Of hit-and-run?

20161220_174431
Art made with eyes at the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology.

Massive

Relief — March 16, 2017
Not a Post About Spring — February 17, 2017

Not a Post About Spring

It’s difficult not to feel hopeful now when the days are longer and you can almost sense the tendrils of spring in the air. Even though, throughout the whole winter, you’ve been depressed over things that still aren’t happening (yes, that). Maybe… it’ll all work out? In shaa Allah.

And if it doesn’t, I’m still cool right? I still have some worth, I’m still needed, I still contribute to this world. Right? My value is not dependent on whether I can secure a husband or not, whether I can produce offspring or not. Right?

Sure yeah, as long as I discuss it among people who have common sense. Unfortunately, my culture lacks it, thus among family, relatives, and random aunties, I’ll always be somewhat less than my married counterparts. I’ve been advised to ignore them. But what difference is it going to make? Their judgment, their understanding of the woman, is imprinted in me and even I can’t escape it – even I judge myself. What is so fundamentally wrong with me that I’m never chosen? Why do I succeed in most other things, but fail in… being a woman?

The fact that blogging has become outdated works to my benefit, as few people will read this. These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I say that “everything is ok” and nod at everyone’s advice. They don’t know that this is what I think of myself. Because if they knew, they’d worry for me or feel sorry for me. And then I’d feel guilty for having negative thoughts.

If there’s any one thing I’m proud of, it’s how I can just hide all the sadness and anger when I’m with other people. The fact that I can just do what is asked of me, or support others, even though I’d rather just feel sorry for myself (that’s reserved for places like this). I know it’s slightly hypocritical, but it doesn’t really matter what I’m going through or what happens to me.

Even if you ask me after reading all this, I’m still not going to be able to share. I’m still just going to nod and agree with your advice. So I’m sorry I’m inconsolable, but at least I’m not burdening you about all the stuff I’m going through. If you’re reading this, know that I did not intend to burden you. I’d be happy if you just pretended as if you’ve never read it. After all, next time you see me, you won’t see a trace of any of this.

Homecoming: The Madinan Seerah — February 14, 2017
About the Other Day… — November 11, 2016

About the Other Day…

Yes, many Trump voters are racist. But now that he’s the president-elect, we need to change the way we’re talking about this – this illness that has gripped such a huge chunk of the Western population. It started a while ago in many European nations, with the rise of extreme right parties. And now that America has legitimized xenophobia, more European nations may follow. I’m not overlooking the racism when I say that many of these people truly are anti-establishment. At least that is what they believe themselves to be. Many of them claim to not be racist – sure, many of them also don’t know what racism actually is – but maybe… just maybe… not all of them hates our guts?

I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt, because otherwise the world doesn’t make sense. Also, it’s easier to reason with someone who’s merely anti-establishment than with someone who hates me for the way I look or the religion I follow. We should, to the extent we can, always think good of others. We cannot give in to hatred, that is not the way to overcome this divide.

We need to talk to these people, we need to understand them as well as present ourselves to them. They need to know us individually, and not as a hateful mob. Also, many of these people are under-educated. So let us educate them. Let us be better than them. We can’t depend on third-parties, especially not the media, to do this. We need to roll up our sleeves and take control of our own representation.

It’s difficult for me to truly feel the fear that so many Americans belonging to minority groups are feeling today, because I’m not an American. I’ve been privileged enough to live in a tolerant country. Sure, we also feel the strong winds of right-wing populism, we also have a xenophobic party in parliament, but as an individual I have yet to be subjected to any direct racial attack. Alhamdulillah. It might only be a matter of time though. Which is why even I have to engage in the American dialogue. This is the struggle of millions of people belonging to minorities, who have made their home in the West. We need to cure it where it is, so that it doesn’t spread to other places. The cancer is not the Trump voters, the cancer is the hatred. The hatred is fluid, and has been let loose. It’s not contained in any single vessel, not even in a body of vessels. I don’t believe it.

Yes, it’s all gone wrong. I can’t say “it’s going to be okay”, because it probably won’t be. But I can say what I believe, which is that we all have the strength to fight this. Let this be the day we start making history.

Snapchat — November 2, 2016
Update on My Search (Not the One You’re Thinking About Though) — November 1, 2016

Update on My Search (Not the One You’re Thinking About Though)

This week I have two interviews. One is today, in three hours to be more precise, and the other one is on Thursday. In shaa Allah I’ll find something soon. I’m not worried about that part of my life.

However, I still haven’t found a place. For those that don’t know, I’m looking for an apartment to rent for myself and my mom. We’re currently staying at my brother’s place (before that, the whole family lived in a big house – as the family grew, we had to separate), but mom and I need a home of our own. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the housing conditions in Stockholm; to find a first-hand rental contract in this city, you have to stand in a rental line for years… and when I say years, I mean like at least 10 years to have any realistic expectations. I’ve only been on the line for five years (will be six by February I think), so my prospects are bleak. This is causing me a lot of anxiety, especially as mom keeps stressing me about it. Your average Asian/Muslim girl perhaps does not face these kind of situations, which is why I have a hard time explaining my anxiety to people in our community. If you have a parental home, you’re pretty much set until you get married.

Anyway… every time I write something or tell someone about above issue, I get all of these useless suggestions from people. No offence, I know it sounds really rude, I mean people are trying to help after all… but one thing you should know about me is that I’m a solution-oriented person. Unless I’m actually asking for suggestions/advice, I don’t want it. If I know my readers right however, you’re still going to suggest things (just as whenever I tell you not to contact me personally every time I’m on a rant, to check up on me, you still do it). So let me stop you right there by telling you how these, which are suggestions I’ve already received and which undoubtedly will be the only suggestions you’ll end up giving me, won’t work for me:

  1. Why don’t you try getting a second-hand contract? I e renting someone’s apartment privately. Because I want a home of my own, not something temporary from where I’ll have to move out whenever the owner of the apartment wants me to. I don’t need anything temporary, we’re already staying somewhere.
  2. Why don’t you move abroad? Really? If you were looking to move out of your current home and you couldn’t find anything in your city, the first thought in your mind would be to move abroad? This is my country, my home. I’m not a temporary resident here. And also, how is moving abroad a much easier option than finding a place here??
  3. Why don’t you buy a place? First of all, I don’t have enough savings (actually I don’t have enough to call them “savings”). Secondly, housing prices are so high we’d  end up in the far outskirts of the city, probably not even close to a subway/train station. Buying something may be an option for later in life, or when I eventually might get married (yeah ok go ahead laugh), but right now it’s not possible for me.

There, I’m pretty sure I covered it all. Now please refrain from giving me suggestions. If you really care about me, please make du’a. Nothing is more precious and nothing will help me more. What has Allah not provided me with – so many things I never expected to get in life alhamdulillah.

Once again, because I know some of you have fingers itching for criticizing me – I’m not gonna say that it’s your fault for being offended, because I know I come across as harsh sometimes – please refrain from telling me off about how ungrateful I am. I honestly do appreciate all of you guys, especially those of you that comment (and please continue doing so!), but I’d rather receive a productive or empathetic comment than one where you’re trying to solve my problems.

And if you want to see a relatively less harsh side of me LOL, follow me on Twitter @AlohoNorah.

The Hopeless Search of a Swedish Muslim — October 12, 2016

The Hopeless Search of a Swedish Muslim

Opens Muzmatch. Let’s see what today has to offer. Eyes automatically look at the lower right corner: “Always prays.” Alright let’s look at the profile Bismillah. Holding breath. “Not willing to relocate abroad.”

Sigh.

Repeat.

I think I can safely state that it generally is not easy for Muslim women to approach men for marriage “in real life”. Muzmatch is definitely a safe space and the fact that it is so easy to use, especially for those leading busy lives, makes all other similar services dull in comparison. Yet for those of us not living in the UK or the US, it’s extremely hard finding suitable matches. Many of us women who do not take the brave step in marrying someone with a different ethnic background end up moving abroad, but that’s not an alternative for everybody.

During my search for Mr. Right, I’ve come across many who had no idea there were Muslims in Sweden, and “did I migrate here or am I born here?”. To be completely honest, this ignorance baffles me. There are Muslims and Asians all over Europe, and have been for ages – how is this news to some people? And no, not all of us migrated here in our adult lives; thousands of us were born and bred in countries all over Western Europe.

So many people find it difficult to find suitable matches in their vicinity – why not look abroad? What’s the worst that could happen? At the very least, you get to know about the cultures of other European Muslims. But writing restrictions on your profile like “UK/US citizens only please” feels highly discouraging – especially for those that are actually willing to move to the English-speaking superpowers. So many of the profiles suggested to me by the app show adventurous people that love traveling, yet marrying someone from a different place is not an option.

Frustration level: skipping the cardio for a tube of Pringles because I ain’t finding him anytime soon.

This is not something exclusive for the Muzmatch app. Whatever app or website you use for these purposes, you’ll see that the majority of the users are clustered in certain areas of the world. That leaves the rest of us stranded, scattered all over the world in hopelessness. Add to that being a female over 25 (which aunty-wisdom claims as the expiry date for us), and your Google search history lists things like “how to get a cat if you’re allergic”.

I say enough is enough. Something needs to be done about this, and so this is my attempt in highlighting us – Muslims, Asians, etceteras, living in other parts of Europe – maybe by reading this little post you will widen your search filters and at least read some profiles and see what the world has to offer.

Opens Muzmatch. “Always prays.” Alright Bismillah…

 

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